The National D-Day Memorial and the town of Bedford should be proud of their commemoration of the 70th anniversary of D-Day. The moving words of D-Day participants, read during the official commemoration on Friday; the presence of many D-Day veterans; the sounds of the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra; the showing of Casablanca; the town itself, its center largely unchanged these 70 years, evoked a moving sense of the past. This weekend, stirred more than a respect for the past, however; it gave me hope for the future.
I was thrilled to see a wide range of ages at Friday’s commemoration. Many high school and college students were there, some with grandparents (or great-grandparents), some as spectators, some as reenactors. This last group gave me pause because it occurred to me that they were the most accurate reenactors I’ve ever seen for one very poignant reason: They are the same age now as the boys who saved the world 70 years ago. That ones so young spent their weekend saluting those who had gone before gives me hope.
A couple of gentlemen who stepped out of the crowd at the parade to carry forward a bench so that two veterans and their wives could sit down, gives me hope.
Jack Booth gives me hope. Jack spoke before the showing of Casablanca because his son, Joshua is featured in the documentary, Bedford: The Town They Left Behind, the trailer for which was shown before the movie. Joshua loved Bedford, his grandfather’s home and, inspired by the tales of the Bedford Boys, he enrolled in The Citadel in 2001 in order to pursue a career in the military. He graduated a 1st Lieutenant in the Marine Corps, and was deployed to Iraq in 2005. In 2006, he was killed by a sniper. He had told his father that he didn’t think that he would be coming home and he had two requests: “Make sure my children know who I was,” he told his dad, adding that he was to be buried in Bedford. Joshua’s mother, not knowing of this request, wanted her son to be buried in Arlington. She burst into tears when told of Joshua’s wish because “No one in Bedford knows him.” When his flag-draped casket rolled through town to its final stop in Longwood Cemetery, however, hundreds of townspeople lined the streets. Many carried flags. Joshua might not have been one of the Bedford Boys, but he was recognized as a Bedford Boy. I suspect that there are plenty of Bedford Boys out there yet. Jack reminded us all that America is exceptional and his son and all those strangers who saluted his passing prove it.